What’s an MPA Degree Worth? Opportunities for New Career Paths

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As America’s employment landscape becomes increasingly competitive, professionals are looking for any advantage to gain even a slight edge over others seeking the same opportunities. The difference between earning a coveted position and becoming one of the applicants in the “no” pile can be tiny — a single misspelled word, a line on the sheet of paper that is your resume, or a result that comes up when someone searches for you on the internet. In this type of job market, what professional investments should be prioritized? And for those pursuing management positions, what is the value of holding an MPA degree?

What Exactly is the MPA?

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree is described by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) as “The core professional degree for a management career in public service.” MPA holders work in a wide array of organizations including government (federal, state and local agencies), nonprofit firms, and private companies. They may work in consulting, education, construction, community development, policymaking, logistics, public safety and defense, any area that serves the public interest. The degree is widely recognized, applicable across many fields, and makes possible a plethora of opportunities to its bearers.

 Holding an MPA, rather than another master’s level management degree, affords distinct advantages. Other degrees may offer some amount of similar coursework and may achieve a portion of the learning outcomes sought by those completing an MPA. However, the Master of Public Administration is widely recognized by public service employers as a premier degree of relevance, distinguishing those who hold it. For instance, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) describes the MPA as “The recognized graduate degree for professional positions focusing on public service primarily in a government capacity.” By choosing an MPA degree over a somewhat similar but differently named or occupationally targeted degree, you gain an edge in the wide market for positions in public service that could make the difference between earning a job offer or being passed over for a candidate who simply possessed the more recognized degree.

Courses Involved

Required and elective courses that make up an MPA program vary slightly by educational institution and specializations, but all emphasize the following components:

  • Theory: Public management, social science, and organizational theory comprise a significant portion of an MPA student’s learning.
  • Ethics: Government and management ethics, dealing responsibly with business partners and the public, and fundamentals of legislation should be included in an MPA curriculum.
  • High-level academic skills: MPA degrees include at least a couple courses on research methods, statistics, quantitative methods, and analysis.
  • Experiential and hands-on learning: MPA degrees balance academic coursework with practical experience in the varying arenas with which a public management official and the interested public interact. Courses that explore these practical facets of business and government including human resources, information technologies, financial management, and organizational structure. All are included in an MPA curriculum.

How Can It Help Me?

Earning an MPA degree benefits you in a number of ways. The following highlight some of the benefits of completing an MPA.

New Skills

Public administrators and leaders possess many competencies. As you climb the ladder and assume bigger responsibilities in your professional career, you’ll work more closely with a wider variety of professionals and will need to round out your skill sets. Your success depends on being able to understand and respond to not only the inner workings of management but also human resources, finances, technology, and more. NASPAA accredited MPA programs provide knowledge and competency in each of these skill areas and help you round out your solid foundation that will serve your constituencies as you rise in public management and influence, and this may happen much more rapidly than otherwise anticipated.

Career Opportunities

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the number of positions that require at least a master’s level of education has increased by a significant percentage over the past 10 years, and the trend does not show signs of slowing. Master’s degrees are vital to compete for, obtain and maintain positions that in years past required merely a bachelor’s degree. Earning a master’s degree now positions you on the favorable side of the wave and sets you up for opportunities available throughout your career that won’t be possible without it.

Increased Credibility

Obtaining an MPA indicates to employers, colleagues, and organizations that you are serious about your commitment to public service and personal professional development. Increased learning adds weight to your contributions and ideas. A master’s degree is also a necessary first step to being able to continue into higher echelons of education down the road, should you desire or your career require a doctorate, which further compounds the advantages that accompany a master’s degree.

If you plan to put all effort in to reach your potential, to make a big difference in the world, and to hold significant leadership positions within your chosen area of service, earning an MPA is definitely “worth it.” By investing in an MPA degree, you make a strategic investment in yourself and your career. An MPA degree opens realms of possibilities in the form of increased job opportunities and give its holder an expedited track to a significant management career.

Learn More

By learning more about the University of San Francisco Online Master of Public Administration (MPA), you take an important first step toward pursuing your professional goals and commitment to social justice. Our program is designed for professionals who want to become effective public managers and civic leaders who affect change through policy management and advocacy.

Recommended Readings

Millennials’ Participation in Public Affairs

5 Tips on How to Find a Job With a Degree in Public Administration

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